The survival and smooth functioning of the society is possible only when there exist in it social harmony, social solidarity and social order. Social harmony or solidarity is not an automatic development.
Individual members of the society must strive and struggle to bring it out. Members of the society are able to bring about social harmony or order only when they conform to certain accepted standards of behaviour or norms.
Conformity to norms must prevail over the self-seeking impulses of the people. Group welfare or societal welfare must take precedence over individual pleasures. Individual by himself cannot do this.
Hence society exercises its force or control over the individual members. Thus social control refers to the control of society over the individual. Social control implies a system of device through which society controls the activities of individual members.
E.A. Ross was the first American sociologist to deal with this concept of social control in his famous book “Social Control published in 1901. In fact, it was he who first used the concept of ‘social control’ in sociological discussion. Since then the concept has become quite popular.
According to Ross, the individual has deep-rooted sentiments that help him to cooperate with other fellow members to work for social welfare. These sentiments are sympathy, sociability and a sense of justice. But these sentiments by themselves are not enough to suppress the self-seeking impulses of the individual.
Society has to make use of its mechanisms to accomplish the necessary order and discipline. Ross has stressed upon the roles of public opinion, law, belief, suggestion, religion, ideals, ceremony, etc. in establishing social control.
Definition of Social Control:
“Social Control is the sum total of the processes whereby society, or any subgroup within society, secures conformity to expectation on the part of its constituent units, individuals and groups”.
2. E. A. Ross:
“Social Control refers to the “system of devices whereby society brings its members into conformity with the accepted standards of behaviour”.
“Social Control is the sum of those methods by which a society tries to influence human behaviour to maintain a given order.”
4. Ogburn and Nimkoff has said that social control refers to “the patterns of pressure which a society exerts to maintain order and established rules.”
5. J.S. Roucek:
‘Social Control’ is a collective term used to refer to “those processes planned or unplanned, by which individuals are taught, persuaded or compelled to conform to the usages and life-values of groups”.
6. G.A. Lundberg and others have said that social control designates “those social behaviours which influence individuals or groups toward conformity to established or desired norms”.
Nature of Social Control:
The above-mentioned definitions suggest that social control consists of the following essential aspects:
(i) Social Control denotes some kind of influence:
The influence may be exercised in various ways by means of public opinion, coercion, religion, morality, ideology, leadership, etc.
(ii) The influence is essentially exerted by the society or community:
The influence is exerted at various levels. It may indicate the entire society’s influence over all the innumerable smaller groups, sub-groups and individuals. It may denote the influence of a dominant group over several smaller groups. It may signify the group’s dominance over the individual members. It may reflect in some cases the influence of a few extra-ordinary individuals over other ordinary individuals.
(iii) The influence is exercised for promoting the welfare of all the individuals or of the group as a whole:
Social Control is not aimless. It is there to serve the general interests of all and to curb the dangerous selfish interests of those who try to satisfy them.
(iv) The influence of the society has been there since times immemorial:
Social Control is as old as human society. It is an essential condition of the human society. In the absence of social control no society can ever hold together its members for any length of time.
(v) The influence is universal:
Where there is society there is social control. It is there even in the so-called uncivilised, barbaric and cannibalistic societies.